We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
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Tuesday, March 5. 2013
Employers Say Grads Are a Disappointment
Mead's post quotes this:
Related, What College Graduates Lack - Americans have lost their competitive edge. Can college restore it?
As I have said here many times, a Liberal Arts education is not job training. It's designed to be about life-enrichment and about molding civilized and thoughtful citizens with deeper understanding of the world and of their own civilization than secondary schools can offer.
If people want job credentials, I'd advise majoring in Medieval History, Classics, or Renaissance Literature, and minoring in Accounting, Engineering, hard sciences, or Econ (or the other way around) - combining the life-enhancement with the utilitarian.
The kids should consider this: anything that can be learned just as well at The Great Courses/Teaching Company should not be studied at great expense in college. With all the alternative ways of learning higher ed material nowadays, spending big bucks for it makes no sense. And if you need a class and exams to provide the discipline, then one should work on one's discipline.
You can obtain a top-notch Liberal Arts education with them, with as much breadth or depth as you desire. I eagerly await the day that the company will offer their courses for college credit.
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...trouble finding recent graduates qualified to fill positions
It is called preaching to the choir. In the past ten years, I've had actual offers to return to work full time because engineering graduates can't seem to work out simple problems and their higher math skills suck. Just this week I was asked by a former client if I was interested in returning part-time to act as a Senior Engineer and check his graduate engineers work.
I wonder if part of the problem is that your former client has gutted his company of engineers with more than five years' experience who would otherwise have been used to check the work of new hires.
If not, it is a sad comment that the educational rot has extended to engineering. Which shows that the intellectual boot camp approach of engineering schools in years past was the proper approach.
Park Slope Pubby's point about hiring bright non-college grads is well taken- with a good filtering mechanism to select them: Stuyvesant [ or also Bronx Science] graduates.
Unfortunately, too many companies are stopping the hiring of bright non-college grads by requiring college degrees.
A small business with OJT possibilities is a very good place for someone to start out. If you are bright and can teach yourself, small businesses will often tolerate the learning curve, due to a lower salary, and increase your salary when you have picked up new skills.
Not really - a lot of the engineers I've worked with are well into retirement and honestly don't want to reengage with the work a day world.
And I suppose I might have reacted a little more negatively than I should have - to me, the issue isn't so much incompetency, but incomplete training and education. And math skills. You would be surprised at home many engineering grads don't have any depth or understanding of higher mathematics. Or do stupid things like (and I'm not making this up - this is an actual example of something I was involved in) equating 2/3rds with 6.66. And god forbid they can work in metric equivalents.
As you and Park Slope Pubby mentioned - there are a lot of really sharp mechanics and/or mechanically inclined folks without degrees who can do the work and do it well.
Anyone who started doing their science and engineering calculations before cheap pocket scientific calculators has an intuitive feel for the correct order of magnitude, and anyone with post ~1980 high-school most likely does not.
I won't speak to higher mathematics training, as you gave no examples. Number sense I will address.
I became good in high school at estimating numbers- ballpark, as one says. Skill at traditional arithmetic- addition, subtraction, multiplication and division- helped. What also helped was New Math, which by exposure to such things as distributive laws- and writing proofs about them- etc. helped me to figure out on my own to break down numbers for estimating. I doubt that either traditional arithmetic skills or writing math proofs is covered very well in primary and secondary math these days.
I used both the slide rule and calculator in college. One advantage of the slide rule is that you get trained in writing out numbers in scientific notation. This makes it easier to make a guesstimate/reasonable answer prediction before you calculate the answer. Those who are trained solely on the calculator probably are not as accustomed to break down numbers into scientific notation.
A further point about calculators is that they make it easier for students to calculate something without writing it down. [Not writing something down also discourages estimation- number sense.] The more you write something out, the better you understand it.
I own a small manufacturing company. Here's a strategy i have had a lot of success with. Hire the non-college grads who can read, write, do math and think. At least in NYC, there are a lot of very bright people who for whatever reason didn't get a college degree. No big company or government agency will hire them. But they are smart, and the nimble small company can do very well by hiring them.
For example, we have a science-oriented public high school here called Stuyvesant which is famous for being extremely hard to get in to. You have to score super high on a math entrance exam. Some Stuy grads end up dropping out of college. I've hired them at reasonable rates. They can run rings around a lot of college grads. I'm talking engineering-oriented semi-scientific jobs. A little on-the-job training, yes, but you have to do that w/ college grads also.
I agree we could use a lot fewer liberal arts colleges, and those far more selective, requiring Greek, Latin, German, Italian, and French language skills and a good deal of history and classical reading. Complement that with a bunch more Caltech's and MIT's and you might have something.
Or was that what you implied? ;)
I would suggest that every kid get a job at age 8 doing SOMETHING for someone outside the family (shoveling snow, sweeping floors, dog walking/grooming) and continue that pattern through college graduation. Such effort develops a work ethic, helps define interests and makes one aware of the skills necessary to join the workforce in one's chosen field. It has amazed me how many college students have never held a job and have no idea how to become self-directed workers.
My junior in college math major daughter has been interviewing for internships for the summer. Last summer she took a job as a spot welder at the local factory. That alone is going to land her the job for this summer and no doubt after she graduates.
Hard work, willingness to learn, doing something physically exhausting, tiring, dirty and EARLY in the morning--all these things we reminded her of day in and day out as being something good for her.
Yes, you can learn the course material in many ways, but what you don't get from online courses or other self-directed learning is the discussion, the testing of ideas, even the late-night dorm b-s sessions.
I took a few correspondence college courses years and years ago, and they were rigorous and very good, but ultimately I was there way way out in my parents' house in farm country, alone in my room with my typewriter and my AM radio, trying to catch a bit of classical music on WQXR before the ionosphere moved on. It's a lonely way to learn, and there is no sense of community in it.
I have read that the problem is EEO and other fed regs that prevent testing for knowledge and ability, so the B.A./B.S. becomes the test--and the colleges and students are failing it.
I think it has been shown anyone who goes 20-100 thousand dollars in debt to study Medieval history or Renaissance Literature, you are a moron. That's a lot to pay for in-person discussions, tests and late-night dorm bs sessions. If you've trust fund, your daddy's rich and there's a place for you in the family business, the knock yourself out. If you are going to have to support yourself, then you need to study something that will improve your job prospects. Then, you have your whole life to read and discuss to improve your understanding of the world.
The greatest university of all is a collection of books - Thomas Carlyle
Now, the failure is that for all the argument over what to teach students, the one thing never taught is how to study.
The students that survive and make it to the upper levels figure it out to some extent, perhaps even being exposed to it by some random teacher. But think of what might be achieved if students, at the start of their career, were taught how to learn from books rather then regurgitate what is hand fed them in lecture.
Agreed. I do think that many enterprising and intellectually curious people will find some middle ground, even if it's just wandering into a classroom and auditing some courses, getting to know some students.
Learning on one's own can be exhilarating, but eventually you can feel as if you're in a vacuum.
Just pick up the books on this curriculum list, http://www.stjohnscollege.edu/academic/ANreadlist.shtml, from St. Johns College in Annapolis and you'll be OK.
What we need is a comparison of the employability and prospects of graduates from a program like St. John's to those of the graduates of liberal arts programs at state universities and places such as Harvard with their emphasis on useless studies.
You can purchase Kindle or a Nook for $60-$80, which is less than the cost of many college textbooks, and download most of those books from the St. Johns curicculum for free from Project Gutenberg or other places.
The St. Johns approach to liberal arts seems to me to be the way to go. But reading on your own leaves you short- discussing with others is helpful. There is something to e said for the interchange of the classroom.
As a STEM person who had substantial liberal arts gaps in my college courses due to major requirements, I count myself fortunate to belong to a book club which reads a lot of the classics. The discussions are well worth it, as points are bought out which I otherwise wouldn't have seen.